Burns Night Dinner — ‘alive with Scotland’
Posted: January 12, 2013
The Winchester Star
Winchester — The City of Winchester Pipes and Drums’ annual Burns Night Dinner is all about tradition.
The event is in its ninth year and organizers want to keep it fresh and entertaining. But a huge part of its appeal is the tradition and ceremony, said Fran Jeffries, event coordinator.
“It is the same way all across America and in Scotland and everywhere,” said Jeffries, a Winchester resident. “That is the way things go.”
The traditions will continue when the event begins at 6 p.m. Jan. 26 in the Millwood Station Special Events Center at 252 Costello Drive. The tickets cost $60 and are only available in advance. The deadline for purchase is Jan. 21.
The signatures of Scottish culture — bagpipes, drums, tartans, kilts, heather, poetry and haggis — will be on hand to celebrate the birthday of 18th-century poet and songwriter Robert Burns, whose song “Auld Lang Syne” usually rings in the New Year and always concludes the Burns Night.
The event begins with 6 p.m. cocktails, moves into the ceremony at 7 p.m. and the entertainment begins at 8 p.m. The activities usually conclude by 9:30 p.m., Jeffries said.
The dinner typically draws about 200 people and raises about $3,000, which is used to support the Pipes and Drums, a group of about 20 bagpipers and drummers, she said. The band also is seeking sponsors for the event.
The money especially helps with uniforms, which can cost $1,500 to $1,800 per person, she said.
“Each year we add another piece of the uniform because we can’t afford it all at once,” said Jeffries, whose husband Mike is the band’s quartermaster.
From the moment people walk into the room in formal attire or traditional dress, the atmosphere is set for the night, said Annie Loughlin, program coordinator. Tartan banners are hung around the room and heather and roses grace each table in honor of Burns’s song “My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose.”
“It is alive with Scotland — the whole ambience,” said Loughlin, who lives in Huntly but immigrated from Scotland to the United States in 1963.
The night begins with cocktails and a welcome by Dr. Jack Armstrong, the master of ceremonies, Loughlin said. Muriel and Grant Sinclair will offer toasts to Queen Elizabeth II (Queen Elizabeth I of Scotland) and President Barack Obama, respectively.
The Rev. Dan McCoig, associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Winchester, will deliver Burns’s “Selkirk Grace.” Later in the evening, he will offer a tribute to Burns — the man and the poetry.
The pomp and circumstance comes out with the “piping in of the haggis,” a traditional dish of sheep organ meats, onion, oatmeal, suet and spices, Jeffries said.
Piper Dan Lyden will lead the way, followed by the chef carrying the haggis, followed by a sword bearer and scotch bearer.
“The haggis will be presented to the emcee, who will then address the haggis using Robert Burns’s poem ‘Address to a Haggis,’” she said.
Dinner features American fare as well as the haggis, but last year the haggis supply ran out, Loughlin said.
After dinner, the entertainment starts with toasts “to the lassies” and a “reply to the lad” — sassy toasts usually delivered by a husband and wife, Jeffries said. “It can be bawdy, too, in the tradition of Robert Burns.”
The entertainment continues with the tribute to Burns, a performance by the Pipes and Drums, a bagpipes solo by Lyden, and several songs by tenor Chip Connelly.
The skirl of the bagpipes — the high, shrill, wailing tone — brings out the “Scottish in everyone,” whether they are from Scotland, have Scottish heritage or just enjoy the culture, Loughlin said.
“It is not going away. The bagpipes are here to stay,” she said with a grin. “You will also find a number of people around the cash bar being Scottish.”
Loughlin, 70, has been attending the local Burns Night for several years, but she remembers when, growing up in Scotland, it was a tradition limited to men. Women weren’t allowed to attend the evenings.
“It just kind of evolved, and before you knew it, it was everybody,” she said.
The City of Winchester Pipes and Drums’ ninth annual Burns Night Dinner will begin at 6 p.m. Jan. 26 in the Millwood Station Special Events Center at 252 Costello Drive. Tickets cost $60 in advance. The deadline for purchase is Jan. 21. For more information or tickets, contact Susan Saxton at 540-955-8386 or visit winchesterpipesanddrums.org.
— Contact Laura McFarland at email@example.com